Although the U.S. will not send troops back into the region, Obama said he has asked his national security team to prepare a range of options to support the Iraqis in its attempt to “break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.”
“Unfortunately, Iraqis leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces,” Obama said.
“So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force,” he said.
“We can’t do it for them,” the president said. “And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action – including any assistance we might provide won’t succeed. So this should be a wake-up call.”
Obama said Iraqi leaders have to be willing to make hard choices and compromises to unite the country. In doing so, they will have the support of the U.S., its friends and allies.
“Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process. Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos, so the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately, it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems,” he said.
“Indeed across the region, we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counter-terrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish safe haven, and we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region,” Obama said.
Obama promised to “pursue intensive diplomacy” inside Iraq and across the region, “because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military.”
In addition to carefully monitoring the situation in Iraq and remaining vigilant against threats to U.S. personnel serving overseas, the president said he would consult Congress.
“We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward,” he said.